“Shadow Market”: A Historical Analysis of the Rise of the Private College AdmissionsCounseling Industry

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Recent controversies in the world of the private college admissions industry such as
Operation Varsity Blues have led to increased scrutiny on independent education consultants. The shadowy, often-opaque college admissions industry has led to conversations about whether or not the process of college admissions is as equitable as institutions would have the public believe. The aim of this paper is to examine historical factors in the rise of the modern private college admissions industry and argue that key factors and decisions by institutions, economic cycles, and shifts in society are responsible for creating the modern-day private college admissions industry. By interviewing admissions counselors to gain insight on their backgrounds, analyzing primary data and industry reports, this research paper attempts to create a historical lens through which the current private admissions counseling industry can be analyzed. Finally, suggestions for future pathways toward equity and access in the industry are provided.
Last updated on 05/20/2021